Physical Origins of Gas Motions in Galaxy Cluster Cores: Interpreting Hitomi Observations of the Perseus Cluster [CEA]

The Hitomi X-ray satellite has provided the first direct measurements of the plasma velocity dispersion inside a galaxy cluster. Looking at the inner core of the Perseus cluster, Hitomi finds a relatively “quiescent” gas with fairly uniform properties, in particular a line-of-sight velocity dispersion of ~160 km/s at distances 30-60 kpc from the cluster center. This is potentially surprising given evidence such as the presence of jets and X-ray cavities that indicates on-going activity and feedback from the active galactic nucleus (AGN) at the cluster center. Using a set of mock Hitomi observations generated from a suite of state-of-the-art cosmological cluster simulations, and an isolated but higher resolution cluster simulation with cooling and AGN feedback physics, we examine the likelihood of Hitomi detecting a cluster with the observed velocities characteristic of Perseus. As long as the Perseus core has not experienced a major merger in the last few gigayears, and AGN feedback is effective and operating in a “gentle” mode, we reproduce the level of gas motions observed by Hitomi. Turbulence, initially driven by cosmic accretion, provides a background velocity field, which helps to efficiently trigger AGN outflows via chaotic cold accretion. The frequent mechanical AGN feedback generates net line-of-sight velocity dispersions ~ 100-200 km/s, bracketing the values measured in the Perseus core. The large-scale velocity shear observed across the core, on the other hand, is generated mainly by cosmic accretion such as mergers. We discuss the implications of these results for AGN feedback physics and cluster cosmology and how to make progress via improved simulations and observations, including a Hitomi re-flight and calorimeter-based instruments with higher spatial resolution.

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E. Lau, M. Gaspari, D. Nagai, et. al.
Fri, 19 May 17

Comments: 10 pages, 3 figures, submitted to ApJ